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July 9, 2012

UVA Health System selected for national program to increase breastfeeding rates in U.S. hospitals

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University of Virginia Health System has been selected to participate in “Best Fed Beginnings,” a first-of-its-kind national effort to improve breastfeeding rates in states where rates are currently the lowest. Although experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for infants the first six months and to continue with the addition of solid foods until one year of age, half of U.S.-born babies are given formula within the first week after being born, and only 31 percent of babies are breastfeeding at all by nine months.

UVA Health System is partnering with Best Fed Beginnings in an effort to reverse these trends by implementing a proven model for maternity services that supports a new mother’s choice to breastfeed. The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) is leading the effort through a cooperative funding agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and will be working closely with Baby-Friendly USA, Inc.

Commitment to Supporting New Moms Who Choose to Breastfeed

“We are excited to participate in this program and to be recognized for our commitment to increasing breastfeeding rates in our community,” said Ann Kellams, MD, medical director, newborn nursery. “It is an opportunity for us to serve as a model for how hospitals can support breastfeeding moms.”

UVA Health System is one of 89 hospitals participating in this national initiative, and one of five in Virginia. The groups will work together in a 22-month learning collaborative, implementing quality improvements in pursuit of a “Baby Friendly” designation. This designation verifies that a hospital has comprehensively implemented the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.”

The Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has multiple health benefits for both infants and mothers. For infants, it decreases the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, reduces infant mortality, and optimally supports neurodevelopment. It also decreases infants’ risk of becoming obese later in childhood. For mothers, breastfeeding decreases the risks of breast and ovarian cancers and diabetes.

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